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Canon 1D Mark IV vs 50D

The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV and the Canon EOS 50D are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2009 and August 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-H (1D Mark IV) and an APS-C (50D) sensor. The 1D Mark IV has a resolution of 16 megapixels, whereas the 50D provides 15.1 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon 1D Mark IV   Canon 50D
Canon 1D Mark IV Canon 50D
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Canon EF mount lenses Canon EF mount lenses
16 MP, APS-H Sensor 15.1 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/30p Video no Video
ISO 100-12800 (50-102400) ISO 100-3200 (100-12800)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD, 920k dots 3.0" LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
10 shutter flaps per second 6.3 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
1500 shots per battery charge800 shots per battery charge
156 x 157 x 80 mm, 1230 g 146 x 108 x 74 mm, 822 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV and the Canon EOS 50D? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark IV and the Canon 50D. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon 1D Mark IV vs Canon 50D
Compare 1D Mark IV versus 50D top
Comparison 1D Mark IV or 50D rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 50D is considerably smaller (36 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark IV. Moreover, the 50D is markedly lighter (33 percent) than the 1D Mark IV. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor (as in the 1D Mark IV) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (50D). You can compare the optics available in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark IV gets 1500 shots out of its LP-E4 battery, while the 50D can take 800 images on a single charge of its BP-511A power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the 1D Mark IV has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the 50D, Canon provides the BG-E2N vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Canon 1D Mark IV» 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1230 g 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 50D« 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1530 g 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
 
Canon 80D« » 139 mm 105 mm 79 mm 730 g 960 Y Feb 2016 1,199- i Canon 80D
 
Canon 70D« » 139 mm 104 mm 79 mm 755 g 920 Y Jul 2013 1,199- i Canon 70D
 
Canon 1D X« » 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1551 g 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
 
Canon 60D« » 145 mm 106 mm 79 mm 755 g 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
 
Canon 7D« » 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
 
Canon 5D Mark II« » 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
 
Canon 1D Mark III« » 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 40D« » 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 n Aug 2007 1,299- i Canon 40D
 
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1215 g 1200 Y Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
 
Nikon D4« » 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
 
Nikon D3S« » 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The 50D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 74 percent) than the 1D Mark IV, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1D Mark IV features an APS-H sensor and the Canon 50D an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the 50D is 36 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.6. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 1D Mark IV and Canon 50D sensor measures

With 16MP, the 1D Mark IV offers a slightly higher resolution than the 50D (15.1MP), but the 1D Mark IV nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.70μm versus 4.69μm for the 50D) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the 1D Mark IV is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 1 month) than the 50D, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 50-102400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon EOS 50D are ISO 100 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-12800.

1D Mark IV versus 50D MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under review, the 1D Mark IV provides substantially higher image quality than the 50D, with an overall score that is 11 points higher. This advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.9 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Canon 1D Mark IV» APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 50D« APS-C 15.1 4752 3168-21.811.469663Canon 50D
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
 
Canon 80D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.2113579Canon 80D
 
Canon 70D« » APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p22.511.692668Canon 70D
 
Canon 1D X« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682Canon 1D X
 
Canon 60D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366Canon 60D
 
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466Canon 7D
 
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579Canon 5D Mark II
 
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 40D« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.370364Canon 40D
 
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328-23.311.3148074Canon 1Ds Mark II
 
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
 
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The 1D Mark IV indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the 50D does not. The highest resolution format that the 1D Mark IV can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 1D Mark IV and the 50D are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinder in the 1D Mark IV offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the 50D (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the 50D has a higher magnification (0.59x vs 0.58x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 1D Mark IV and Canon 50D in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Canon 1D Mark IV»optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 50D«optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 6.3 Y n Canon 50D
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 1/8000s 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
 
Canon 80D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/8000s 7.0 Y n Canon 80D
 
Canon 70D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/8000s 7.0 Y n Canon 70D
 
Canon 1D X« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 14.0 n n Canon 1D X
 
Canon 60D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 1/8000s 5.3 Y n Canon 60D
 
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n Canon 7D
 
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 3.9 n n Canon 5D Mark II
 
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 40D« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n Canon 40D
 
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark II
 
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D4
 
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D3S

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 50D has one, while the 1D Mark IV does not. While the built-in flash of the 50D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The 1D Mark IV writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC cards, while the 50D uses Compact Flash cards. The 1D Mark IV features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 50D only has one slot.

 

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV and Canon EOS 50D and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Canon 1D Mark IV»Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 50D«Y----mini2.0---Canon 50D
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 1D X Mark II
 
Canon 80D« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Canon 80D
 
Canon 70D« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--Canon 70D
 
Canon 1D X« »Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D X
 
Canon 60D« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 60D
 
Canon 7D« »Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 7D
 
Canon 5D Mark II« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 5D Mark II
 
Canon 1D Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 40D« »Y-----2.0---Canon 40D
 
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark II
 
Nikon D4« »Ymonomono--micro2.0---Nikon D4
 
Nikon D3S« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Nikon D3S

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the 1D Mark IV and the 50D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 50D was replaced by the Canon 60D, while the 1D Mark IV does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon website.


Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon 1D Mark IV better than the Canon 50D or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Advantages of the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.9 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 6.3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1500 versus 800) on a single battery charge.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 1 month after the 50D).


Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 50D:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.59x vs 0.58x).
  • More compact: Is smaller (146x108mm vs 156x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 408g or 33 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (74 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2008).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 1D Mark IV is the clear winner of the match-up (10 : 6 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

1D Mark IV 10:06 50D

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 1D Mark IV and the Canon 50D place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 1D Mark IV or the 50D perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Canon 1D Mark IV»-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 50D«+ ++ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
 
Canon 80D« »+ +84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2016 1,199- i Canon 80D
 
Canon 70D« »+ +83/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jul 2013 1,199- i Canon 70D
 
Canon 1D X« »--4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
 
Canon 60D« »+79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
 
Canon 7D« »+ +84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
 
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
 
Canon 1D Mark III« »---o- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 40D« »+ ++ +4.5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299- i Canon 40D
 
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »-+ +--- Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
 
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
 
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Canon 1D Mark IV:
Check Ebay offers
Canon 50D:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Canon 1D Mark IV vs Canon 50D

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon 1D Mark IV Canon 50D
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Canon EF mount lenses Canon EF mount lenses
    Launch Date October 2009 August 2008
    Launch Price USD 4999 USD 1299
    Sensor Specs Canon 1D Mark IV Canon 50D
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-H Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 27.9 x 18.6 mm 22.3 x 14.9 mm
    Sensor Area 518.94 mm2 332.27 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 33.5 mm 26.8 mm
    Crop Factor 1.3x 1.6x
    Sensor Resolution 16 Megapixels 15.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4896 x 3264 pixels 4752 x 3168 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.70 μm 4.69 μm
    Pixel Density 3.08 MP/cm2 4.53 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100-12800 ISO 100-3200 ISO
    ISO Boost 50-102400 ISO 100-12800 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC IV DIGIC 4
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 74 63
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.8 21.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.0 11.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1320 696
    Screen Specs Canon 1D Mark IV Canon 50D
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.58x 0.59x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 920k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon 1D Mark IV Canon 50D
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 10 shutter flaps/s 6.3 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy300 000 actuations100 000 actuations
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDHC cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Canon 1D Mark IV Canon 50D
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port no MIC socket
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon 1D Mark IV Canon 50D
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type LP-E4 BP-511A
    Battery Life (CIPA)1500 shots per charge800 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 156 x 157 x 80 mm
    (6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in)
    146 x 108 x 74 mm
    (5.7 x 4.3 x 2.9 in)
    Camera Weight 1230 g (43.4 oz) 822 g (29.0 oz)

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